The legend of “La Moreneta”. Why the patron saint of Catalonia is black?

ImageThe legend says that in 880, during some weeks, people could observe very intense and dazzling lights that illuminated the Montserrat Mountains. The phenomenon made that many people came because of the singular and surprised fact. People thought there was something magical in that fact and even the Bishop of Manresa went to Montserrat to see that extraordinary case.

That’s when there was founded in a cave, the image of a beautiful Madonna. She had black skin. When people that founded the Madonna wanted to bring it to Manresa, the nearest city from Montserrat, they couldn’t do it. Then, they realized that the Virgin wanted to belong to this place and decided to build a shrine to venerate her.

This is why this Virgin is called Montserrat, like the Mountains, and this place is known as de Monastery of Montserrat. The image of the Black Madonna, that in Catalan is called ‘La Moreneta’, is visited by thousands of people from those days. 

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The Tió. Why Catalan children knock a wooden trunk to make it shit?

ImageOne of the most important traditions in Catalonia is the Tió. In fact, it is not a legend, but I thing that everyone should know this tradition before coming to Catalonia.

The tradition consisted that parents picked a trunk from the forest at the beginnings of December and brought it to home. Nowadays, it is not a real trunk, and people buy Tions in markets, and they are decorated with some legs, mouth… Then, all the Tions arrive at every Catalan house, usually at 8th December. At home, it is covered with a blanket. Every day, the children of the house give some food to the Tió: fruit, chocolate, eggs… And, of course, some water every day.

The most important day is when The Tió has to shit. Yes, shit. The Tio shits every 24th December night, before all the family goes to Midnight Mass. To make it shit, children have to go in some different room to pray or to sing some carols. When they finish to sing a song or to pray some oration, children go back to the room where the Tió is and start to sing the traditional song while they knock the Tió with some stick. The traditional song to make the Tió shit is known by all children in Catalonia. This procedure has to be repeated until the Tió shit some toilet paper or an onion.

And, what does the Tió shit? Traditionally, it shit sweets, candies, and some simple toys to the children and nougats and cava to the parents. But now, in some families, the Tió shits really important presents, trying to give to children the presents as soon as possible, and not to wait until 6th January, the King’s Day. 

The legend of the women in Tous. Why in this small town children eat bread & nuts

ImageThe legend tells that in the castle in Tous lived a greedy and capricious lady. She was accustomed to luxury and the good life and it all seemed little refinement to her. The good food is what she loved more, and she just wanted delights

There was a chef that discovered delicious stew bones, nicely seasoned. When the lady asked what it was that food that tasted so good, the cook said:

– Is the bone marrow of black lamb, only black lamb.

Since that day, she only wanted that dish: any could satisfy her. First, there were finished black sheep of his flock, and then, all the black sheep of his territory. 

It was so hard to find them, and the lady spent all her money trying to buy every black lamb that existed. She ended all her resources, and she sold all the possessions she had. 

In that situation, stripped of everything, she was forced to beg from house to house asking for help and for some money to eat. Around to the farms that once were of her own, the legend says that one of the owners of that houses, gave to her a crust of bread and a few nuts.

She was so hungry, that while she was eating, she started to cry. When the owner of the house asked what was wrong, she answered, complaining about her misfortune: “If I had known it was so good bread & nuts, I would still be the Tous lady”. In Catalan, nuts are called “nous“, and this is why the sentence said by the lady is so famous in Tous, because it rhymes: “Si hagués sabut que era tan bo el pa amb nous, encara avui seria la senyora de Tous”.

This is why children -and adults- in Tous always have as a snack some bread & nuts. They assure that is the best food ever. At last, is the cheapest one… 

The four bars legend. Why the Catalan flag has these colours

ImageThe legend of the four stripes is the legend that explains the origin of the flag and the shield of Catalonia, first appeared in 1551 in the second part of the General Chronicle of Spain.

The story explains that the origins of the flag are in Guifré el Pilós, the last count of Barcelona appointed by the Frankish kings, and the first to give inherit their domains, initiating the Dynasty Counts of Barcelona.

Specifically, is told that the four stripes were created after a battle against the Normans, when the Frankish king dip his hand in a open wound of Guifré el Pilós, and then he passed all four fingers above the golden shield of the Count of Barcelona. With this act was created the shield of the House of Barcelona, symbol of the new sovereign conquered, and, over the years, this four red stripes become the Catalan flag.

Now, the Catalan flag is composed by 4 red vertical stripes, that are the blood of Guifré el Pilós, and between each red stripe, there is a yellow one, that symbolizes the shield of the Count.

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The legend of the monster of the Lake in Banyoles. Why people in Banyoles can swim in the Lake

foto_722_mOnce upon a time, in Banyoles, a little Catalan village, a huge beast lived in a cave in large depth of the Lake in the town. People who saw it told that was a terrible monster, that had a so foul breath that, when it blowed, it dried plants, poisoned water, stanked fields and assigned diseases to people and animals. But the worst thing it had was it was very greedy. Herds that passed near the Lake, disappeared as if by magic, into his throat.

People in Banyoles were terrified by the dragon. Neither were safe at home, because every night appeared a broken door and there was a missing person. Nothing could stop that monster.

But one day, Charlemagne soldiers thought that their legend would be greater if they killed the famous dragon. Then they would be famous around the world. They went to the Lake, ready to fight against the dragon. They only could prepare their spades. They all disappeared in the Dragon’s mouth.

When people who lived in Banyoles saw that the most powerful army in the world had fled because of fear, understood that only a miracle could save them. They decided to visit a monk in France, because they had listen that he could make miracles. When the monk listened the story, he agreed to help them.

He arrived to Banyoles praying and praying, and went to the Lake. When the Dragon saw him, it made no hostile movement. The monk said to the people that: “Keep out your weapons and guns, the Dragon would not do anything. It only eats vegetables!”. People realized that all was been a strategy of Charlemagne soldiers to gain power, fame and popularity.

This is the story that tells why people in Banyoles are not afraid to swim in the Lake, even there is living, now, a terrible Dragon. The Dragon is such famous that it has a typical catalan song! Listen to it here.

The legend of the drummer from El Bruc. Why Montserrat Mountains are so important in Catalonia

ImageThe drummer from El Bruc is one of the popular heroes in Catalonia. This legend tells the story of a young boy from Santpedor –the town where Pep Guardiola lived all his childhood-, that with the huge noise of his drum scared the French army of Napoleon  during one terrible battle in Montserrat Mountains.

In early 1808, the French army invaded Catalonia, entering through La Jonquera, North of the country. They were going to Barcelona, the capital, and from there, they wanted to invade the entire region.

So, on June, hundreds of soldiers were going to Igualada and Manresa, two cities in the center of Catalonia. Between the two cities, there are breathtaking mountains, with a peculiar form, called Montserrat Mountains.

Napoleon’s army had not lost any battle until then… The importance of the battle of Bruc is that it broke the invincibility of the French army. But, how could this occur?

The legend tells that when the soldiers were crossing the mountains, this young boy started to make a terrible noise with his drum. Hided in a cave of the mountains, he made the French believe that Spanish army was bigger. When the French army listened the spectacular roar coming from “inside” of the mountains, they decided to retire on time.

The Battle of El Bruc was not a really battle, says the history, but a kind of skirmish where the French, terrified and frightened by the possibility of being to an ambush in Montserrat, decided to return to Barcelona. It was the first time that the French army lost a battle, and this was possible because one young boy had an excellent idea with a simply instrument.

The drummer has some monuments in El Bruc, Santpedor and Barcelona. Last year, a film based on this legend was created by a Catalan director. The filming was done in the real mountains of Montserrat. The difficult access made the team arrived on foot and with all machinery loaded on donkeys.

The legend of Sant Jordi. Why men give to women a rose every April 23th

Sant_Jordi_per_RafaelOnce upon a time, Montblanc residents were terrified because of a terrible and fierce monster. It could walk, fly and swim, and it spitted fire through its mouth. The breath of the monster was so wealthy that caused the death of all the people who breathed.

With the intention to calm de monster, Montblanc residents fed him his cows, sheep, chickens and all the fruits of their gardens. When there was no food because the monster had eaten all herds, came the worst.

Montblanc residents agreed to feed the monster one person every day. The problem was to find that person willing to be devoured by the monster. After a long discussion, villagers decided to raffle every day who would be the person eaten by the monster. With this solution, the terrible beast seemed to feel satisfied, because it stopped terrorizing the villagers.

But one day, the luck in the lottery made ​​out the name of the daughter of King. The young princess was so beautiful and kind, and all the villagers loved her, and some people volunteered to replace her.  But the King, who was a righteous person, believed that his daughter was like everybody in the town, and she had to be given to the monster as any inhabitant in Montblanc.

The young princess walked alone to the cave where the monster was living. But when all the people in the town were crying because of the terrible scene, a handsome knight with a shining armor, mounted on a white horse appeared to save her.

The princess said: “Run away! If you stay, the monster is going to see you and want to devour”. But the knight answered: “Don’t worry. I’m here because I came expressly to save you and to save your town from this monster”.

When he was answering, the monster came out of his cave and then started an intense battle that finished when the knight thrust his sword into the dragon’s heart. Of the blood of the death monster, was born a beautiful rose bush. The knight cut one of the roses and gave it to the princess. Montblanc residents started to clap. The knight kissed the princess and they were happily ever.

This is why every April 23th, men give to women one rose, as a proof of his love. Women, at the same time, give to men a book. The date coincides with the “Book day”, because it commemorates the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Sheakspeare.

Sant Jordi, who is the patron of Catalonia, is considered one of the most typical traditions here and it is celebrated by everyone in the country.